Evan Williams White Label Bottled in Bond

With the Evan Williams 1783 getting low, and my mini bottle comparison proving that I don’t know beans about bourbon, I went to Reddit and a few other sites looking for low cost, much appreciated bottom shelf (or bottom adjacent) bourbons.

Repeatedly, Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond (White Label) kept coming up. And guess what? It was on sale! So 750ml made the trip back to the lair.

You know what I smell? Corn! Imagine that! Given it’s 100 proof, I expected to have my nose burst into flame, but the alcohol wasn’t overwhelming. I can also get some oak.

Tasting it gave me sweetness, corn, and oak. And there is the alcohol! Surprisingly, it might have been less imposing than the lower proof 1783. I added ice and this helped quite a bit. I have read of people saying that they taste peanut of all things. Over ice, I swear I can taste peanut!

Hmm. So far, drinking any base spirit straight isn’t my favorite thing to do, although I keep trying! So what to do? I added it to Coke in a 1:3 ratio (1 part bourbon, 3 parts Coke). The survey says: Oak! Vanilla. Pepper. So much oak. I think I shall call it Oak-a Cola. I don’t dislike it, but the oak is very prominent. And I get a peppery heat, almost more so than an alcohol burn.

So, even if I can’t drink it straight, there are always cocktails.

Age: At least four years (a requirement for bottled-in-bond bourbons)

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Price: $13 for 750ml (on sale)

Buy Again: Probably (or similar)

 

Sip Bourbon? You can do that?

After a little progress trying to sip rums neat, I thought I’d revisit Bourbon. Now, mind you, I NEVER thought I’d be traveling towards this crossroads again, waiting for the devil to appear at midnight.

But dark rum and I are now friends and dark rum has some of the same characteristics of my mortal enemy of old, whiskey.

After one too many YouTube videos proclaiming how sweet and smooth various bourbons were, I decided to make a great sacrifice and try some.

I already have one, Evan Williams 1783, that I bought for mixing. But the purpose of this endeavor was to find something I could sip straight or over ice. To be fair, I hadn’t tried the Evan Williams straight. I also had a miniature of Larceny that was attached to a full size bottle of something else.

At my last visit to the ABC store, I asked the manager what he recommended. Without hesitation he said, “Maker’s Mark“.

I had learned that Maker’s was a wheated bourbon and that was supposed to yield a sweeter spirit.

Back to the web. I ended up with a list, and on the next trip, picked up miniatures of Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, and Woodford Reserve. To be clear, Knob Creek and Woodford aren’t wheated, but they are popular bourbons in their price range.

Did I mention that bourbons seem to be pricey? A 750ml bottle of anything above the bottom shelf goes for $30 and up! Even the three miniatures ran me $12 and change!

My goal was to only sample each, so I poured 1/4 oz of each into separate glasses. I let them sit for a couple of minutes. I took in the aroma from each and tried to see what I could take away.

The aroma of all of the samples was sweet. Not surprisingly, corn. And some alcohol. Maybe a bit of oak. I’m not one who can start listing all of the fruits and spices. I get corn and some oak.

So, let the sipping begin! Again I find that the alcohol overwhelms my taste buds before I can get much. I had read to add a few drops of water and to let it sit. Doing so does  allow me to taste more than the alcohol, but I’m back to some sweetness, some corn and some oak. Not bad, since corn and oak should be in a bourbon.

I also read that being careful not to breath in helps with the alcohol burn. True, but even with these steps, I can only take a couple of sips before my tongue is numb. A few minutes later, try, try again.

With Evan Williams 1783 in the comparison, I learned some good news about my lack of sophistication. I can buy cheap bourbon and it tastes the same to me as something twice the price!

Along the same lines as my rum, I tried each with Coca Cola.

Makers, more burn, even with the cola. 1783 was quite good, with the oak forward. The Knob Creek and Woodford both added a peppery spice kick.

Larceny Bourbon

Larceny

The clever label with the old style key and keyhole are a good match for the Larceny name. You can find the backstory repeated ad infinitum on every other website.

Larceny is a “wheated” bourbon, where wheat replaces rye as the second grain after corn. This tends to make for a less “spicy” and sweeter tasting bourbon. Wheated bourbons include Maker’s Mark, Weller, and the well known, if over-hyped Pappy Van Winkle.

Larceny is a very divisive bourbon. Some people absolutely hate it, but I think that for a bourbon with a shelf price in mid $20 range (for a 750ml), it is pretty good. I originally tasted this from a 50ml “collar” (a free miniature attached to a different bottle). I recall liking it compared to Maker’s Mark.

As always, I waited for a chance to catch this on sale. Sure enough, NC ABC runs sales on the 750ml or the 1.75l every other month it seems.

When revisiting Larceny, I again enjoyed it. It is sweet, given both the corn and wheat. Occasionally I taste cherry, a hint of oak, and a subtle cinnamon. At other times, I don’t get the cherry, and the oak comes across more as a tobacco. This goes more to my unsophisticated palate than to what’s in the bottle.

Proof: 92 (46% ABV)

Price: $24 for 750ml (on-sale, NC ABC)

Buy again: Yes

St Remy VSOP Brandy

This is what happens when one doesn’t know what one is doing. I was actually looking for something fruity. In my head, something like an apple brandy. Without doing much in the way of my usual, um, research, I simply learned that it was an acceptably good brandy and it was inexpensive.

Unlike a schnapps or liqueur, that is a base spirit with flavors added, brandy is apparently distilled from wine. So, booze, made from booze. Let that swirl around in your glass for a moment.

The aroma is very subtle, fruity, maybe grape-like with alcohol. I don’t think I sipped it; maybe I should. But it is 9AM, so that will have to wait. I’m sure I used it in a cocktail, although I don’t remember which. So far, it isn’t memorable.

There is French writing on the bottle, so I thought it would class up the Lair.

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Paid: $12 (I think) for 750ml

Buy again: Probably not

Plantation Grande Reserve 5Y

Ah. Rum plus sales price, equals win. There’s always a chance to try something new with less risk, and with the possibility that it will be a great option to buy again.

I am a fan of the Plantation Double Aged Dark rum. So I decided to give the Grande Reserve 5 Year a try. It is the first truly “aged” liquor that I have purchased. Anything else that is I have that is labeled as “aged” is a blend of ages. This is supposed to be aged for five years. There is no way that I can confirm or deny, but it has a distinctive flavor that comes from being in a  charred barrel.

Upon  opening, the smell is banana, sugar, and alcohol. I taste a slight sweetness, hint of char, alcohol, and that banana flavor. I can almost drink it chilled or over ice in small quantities, which for me, is saying something.

Update: I’m sipping it in small quantities! It is less harsh than the Appleton Signature Blend. I get an almost caramel sweetness, a hint of banana, and sometimes a taste of coconut.

It makes a good Rum and Coke, but I’m curious how it will be in other cocktails.

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Paid: $22 (on sale)

Buy Again: Probably

Bacardi Banana Rum

Bacardi must have the largest line of rums in the world. That isn’t saying that they are all good.

I bought this miniature (50ml) bottle just to try it on a whim. It has the same artificial banana flavor that I find in banana liqueur, mixed with a very basic white rum taste with some white rum burn.

From a cocktail point of view, I guess its easier to have two-in-one than separate bottles. Maybe? I don’t know. I think I’ll just stick to having a good white rum and a good banana liqueur.

Proof: 70 (35% ABV)

Paid: $1 for 50ml

Buy again: No

Malibu Coconut Rum

Malibu is almost synonymous with coconut rum. I had previously bought and tried Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum, which is very good. It tastes natural is has a good sweetness level.

Malibu hit me with the smell of alcohol with just a little coconut. It tastes first of sugar, followed by coconut. The taste wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t like I hadn’t read the reviews and seen the ratings. This was another curiosity purchase. I bought a miniature (50ml) bottle of Malibu just to try it, so no great loss.

Proof: 42 (21% ABV)

Paid: $1 for 50ml

Buy again: No

Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum

Just to give another spiced rum a shot, I picked up a bottle of Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum. This is one of the rare alcohol items that actually lists what the spices are supposed to be. The list includes allspice, vanilla, pepper, ginger, mace, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, and juniper berry.

To be very honest, I couldn’t identify all of these items if they were given to me individually. The aroma, however, is a nice, sweet, spicy mix. Not really intended for sipping, so I skipped that.

Mixed in a Rum and Coke, it isn’t bad. It isn’t great either. I still like the Bacardi Oakheart or the Captain Morgan Private Stock substantially better.

Proof: 70 (35% ABV)

Paid: $12

Buy again? Probably Not

Captain Morgan Private Stock Spiced Rum

Again, thanks to a sale price, and Derrick and Ian at Common Man Cocktails, I decided to try another spiced rum. While I wasn’t very impressed with Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, this is another story.

Although it is pricey (for a cheap drinker like myself) at $25 for 750ml, it was on sale at $22. So I gave it a try. Let me tell you, I like the Bacardi Oakheart a lot. This is on the same level as the Oakheart to me. Great flavor, the alcohol doesn’t hurt you, and it mixes well. Vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar, and some other spices I can’t separate out.

It is sweeter than the Oakheart, but brings a lot of flavor to the party. Makes a great Spiced Rum and Coke.

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Paid: $22 (on sale)

Buy again: Probably (when on sale!)

Plantation Original Dark Double Aged Rum

As with many of my purchases, I’m waiting for a sale. When Plantation Original Dark Double Aged Rum went on sale for $15 per bottle, I checked the reviews immediately. Most of the Plantation rums are well regarded. I watched a Common Man Cocktails review of the family including the Aged Dark, along with quite a few online ratings. Reviews behind me, I walked in to the ABC store, took a hard right, walked through the center of the store and right up to the Plantation, grabbed a bottle, checked out, and headed back to the Lair.

Upon opening the bottle, I was struck by the very pleasant aroma. It was sweet and fruity and had the funkiness that I kept reading about. Even that wasn’t unpleasant, just different. I also got no hint of alcohol! A little poured into a shot glass. I could almost drink this on ice! This was a new moment for me.

When added to cocktails, it yields a sweet and fruity drink. I could be happy drinking this with Coke and never trying another cocktail or spirit.

But I think I’ll keep trying, anyway.

Age: No age statement

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Paid: $15 (on sale)

Buy again: Yes (Absolutely, I have a second bottle in the wings!)